Archive for July 12, 2011

Mental models – the price of “wait…what?”

Posted by in design, human behaviour, user experience on July 12, 2011 | 1 comment

Recently I was driving in France, and got a bit…lost. At the next village I pulled into the petrol station, walked up to the matronly woman at the counter, and asked to buy a road map. She stared at me blankly. I checked my phrasebook and tried again. “Non”, she said this time, waving her arm to encompass the whole shop, “pas de cartes ici”.

I left there shaking my head. No maps at a petrol station? The next petrol station was the same – “pas de cartes”. Clearly, my idea of what a petrol station should sell was different from the French model.

So what does this have to do with usability? Read more »

Service Design 2011

Regular readers of our newsletter and attendees at our breakfast briefings will have noticed that we’re passionate about Service Design here at Optimal Usability and want to be the go-to guys for Service Design in New Zealand.

UX Australia’s Service Design 2011 one day conference offered us a chance to take the temperature of Service Design in Australia and see if we Kiwis measure up. In short I think we more than measure up, but nevertheless there were some interesting learnings to take home from some great presentations which I’d like to share with you. Read more »

Choosing the right mountain to climb

A design project can be a lot like climbing a mountain; it is hard work and takes a lot of time and effort. As an Interaction Designer here at Optimal Usability I am exposed to incredibly smart people every day who work in a wide variety of industries, and all too often I hear examples of where they have climbed mountains only to feel a sense of disappointment after reaching the top and realising that the view would have been better from a different mountain.

Read more »

Anthropology, ethnography and you!

Posted by in anthropology, ethnography on May 20, 2011 | 4 comments

Most of us have at least heard of anthropology and ethnography, but how many of you have considered using it in your projects?  If I were to guess, I’d say not many, which is what I’m hoping to change with this brief article.

In the broadest and most literal sense, anthropology is the study of human beings:  What defines being human?  How did we evolve to where we are today?  What separates us from animals?  What differentiates groups of humans from each other?  In what ways are humans similar across cultures and societies?   To answer these questions, anthropologists look to those boring yet extremely complex everyday experiences that we all go through.

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The Best of SXSW 2011

Posted by in conferences and events on May 13, 2011 | 0 comments

The 25th anniversary of South by South West (SXSW) was an awe-inspiring spectacle. Officially, 19,364 people attended the interactive week, the first time the interactive portion has outsold the music. Over the 5-day conference I went to 20-odd talks and heard from speakers like Steve Krug, Jared Spool, Dan Ariely, Robert Hockman Jr, Seth Priebatsch and TOMS shoe creator Blake Mycoskie.

The main themes were centred around location awareness, twitter, gamification, social networking, metrics and beer. Underlining it all was the mega theme of user experience. Read more »

Taking the brakes off Service Design

Posted by in service design on March 15, 2011 | 1 comment

We’ve been getting pretty excited about the emerging field of Service Design here at Optimal Usability. For those of you who missed Trent’s presentation, cunningly titled ‘An Introduction to Service Design‘, Service Design is about building services that customers love, that wrap around them and fulfil their needs equally well regardless of the way the customer chooses to interact. Well-designed services don’t often happen by accident, they are crafted to meet or exceed the needs of customers. Many businesses are waking up to the reality that the services they offer are fragmented and confusing and often more a reflection of their internal structure than something that has been purposefully created. Read more »

Card sorting isn’t enough

Card sorting is a well-established technique for figuring out how to classify and label information so that it’s easier to find. It’s a great way to gather insights about the nature of the content and your users’ mental models.

However, while card sorting can help generate an information architecture (IA), it doesn’t guarantee that content is easy to find on your website. Card sorting helps figure out ‘what should go together,’ but the results from a card sort usually require substantial massaging to form an IA and that IA still needs to be proven to work. Read more »

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